Top of the glamps
Have you tried glamping? We mean true glamping: candles, an outdoor fire, hot tub, luxury bed, and lots of nature. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what glamping actually is. We heard a TV commentator recently call it ‘‘gramping’’ – thinking it meant ‘‘grandma camping’’, another person thought it stood for ‘‘glorious glamping.’’ It’s actually glamorous camping – and is essentially a luxury twist on an age-old tradition, often with a resort-style offering.
It’s one of the biggest growth areas for boutique accommodation in New Zealand, and we’ve tested out 10 of the best.
New Zealand has seen a boom in glamping retreats, so Brook Sabin and Radha Engling tested out 10 of the best, from a clifftop hot tub escape to a hobbit hideaway.
1. A coast to yourself Castaways Costal Tents, Waiuku
This retreat is raw, beautiful, rugged New Zealand at its best. Three tents are perched on the side of remote cliffs on the windswept West Coast beach of Karioitahi – but each site is perfectly tucked away for absolute privacy.
There are a few reasons this is our standout: each tent has a bath built into a cliff overlooking the black sandy beach below. The tents are heated (pretty rare for glamping), meaning it’s a perfect year-round escape. Reaching the tents is half the fun: you’re given the keys to an off-road golf buggy (and a map) and set off on an adventure.
Despite being completely off-grid and relying on solar power, there’s an espresso machine and stereo with a romantic playlist. And each night includes dinner and breakfast. The food is waiting in the fridge for you to cook at your leisure.
Getting there: About an hour south of Auckland. Power: Solar power with USB charging for phones.
Price: From $430 a night.
2. Live like a bird Kauri Tree Hut, Mangawhai
Imagine having a candlelit bath – inside your own tree house – deep in a kauri forest, while feasting on a cheese platter. The Kauri Tree Hut is every bit as magical as it looks – created from three small bush huts that have been lovingly restored.
There is also plenty to tempt you from the forest, with Mangawhai’s beautiful beaches – and the Bennetts of Mangawhai chocolate factory.
Getting there: About 11⁄2 hours north of Auckland. Power: Solar power for lights only.
Price: From $290 a night.
3. A hobbit hideaway Underhill Valley, Waikato
This fairytale adults-only grotto looks like it’s straight from The Hobbit, but is perhaps best described as a tiny, underground candle-lit castle.
The retreat is set on its own lake, with two main caves. In the first, you’ll find the living area – one of the most magical spaces we’ve come across – with elaborate stonework, native timbers and handcrafted iron fittings. The second cave is an enchanting bathroom with outdoor bathtub.
Getting there: 15 minutes outside Hamilton. Power: No power, it’s all candles at night and a coal range for cooking.
Price: From $355 a night.
4. A hot tub and mountains Tawanui Farm, Cheviot
This retreat is set on a huge sheep and deer farm overlooking the Kaiko¯ ura Ranges. The tents can be found on the far corner of the farm, and are set up like a mini-village that can fit up to eight people.
Two large lotus belle tents are at either side of the camp, and the main attraction is a huge cedar hot tub. On a clear day, you admire the often snowcapped Kaiko¯ ura Ranges from the hot tub.
Getting there: 1 hour, 15 minutes north of Christchurch.
Power: Solar power and USB for charging phones. Price: From $240 a night.
5. A bush hideaway Serenity Retreat, Coromandel
This new off-grid tiny house is a perfect bolt-hole to base yourself while exploring the Coromandel.
The hut is on an 32-hectare lifestyle block. The bathroom is our favourite feature: it’s a little shed by a river, overlooking the native bush and stream.
Getting there: Two hours from Auckland. Power: Solar power for lights and USB charging. Price: From $295 a night.
6. Live the lake life Manutu¯ ke¯ Eco Retreat, Gisborne
This new site is for those seeking a mix of relaxation and adventure. It has two large tents,
bean bags set around an outdoor fire, and a long wharf out to a private lake.
There is a kayak and standup paddleboard for exploring the lake, or rent a bike to find huge hidden hammocks dotted around the farm.
One six-metre hammock is built on a hill overlooking the coast and, thanks to Gisborne’s position, you can be among the first in the world to see the sunrise.
Getting there: 15 minutes outside Gisborne. Power: Solar power for lights and USB charging. Price: From $280 a night.
7. Noah’s modern ark Cottle Hill Creek, Kerikeri
New Zealand’s first floating glamping experience is tucked away on its own lake in Northland. Despite being tiny, the ark has a kitchen, lounge, dining table, composting toilet, and a huge comfy bed.
There is also a dinghy and kayaks – like us, you could head to the tiny island in the middle of the lake for a picnic.
Don’t miss a visit to nearby Kerikeri village for coffee, and pop into the Makana Chocolate Shop for its famous macadamia butter toffee crunch.
It is hands down the best sweet treat we’ve tasted.
Getting there: Three hours north of Auckland, near Kerikeri.
Power: Solar power for lights.
Price: From $270 a night.
8. Glamp in style Rockwood Station, Canterbury
If you enjoy the luxury side of life, this glamping escape is for you. Rockwood Station is a sprawling high-country farm, with a bush cabin in one corner – next to a 40-hectare forest.
The best part is that it’s more mini-chateau than glamping. The cabin has power, a 16-jet spa bath, dishwasher, and roaring fire – not to mention an ultra-comfy bed. Getting there: 1 hour, 15 minutes from Christchurch.
Price: From $295 a night.
9. Go bush Castaways Tree Tent, Waiuku
The adventure starts when you check in. You’re offered an e-bike and map for the 45-minute trip to the tent, which feels like a treasure hunt: the prize being relaxation. Or you can opt to drive to the patch of forest where the hut is hidden away.
The tree hut is super-comfy and heated, but the best part is undoubtedly the bath suspended in the trees. And the fridge full of food – with things like bacon and salmon – included in the price. The hut also has a stereo and espresso machine.
Getting there: 1 hour south of Auckland. Power: Solar with USB charging for phones. Price: From $430 a night.
10. Unwind near Akaroa Green Antler
Imagine being surrounded by 100 deer in your own little valley (though you’re fully protected by a deer fence).
The large safari tent at Green Antler can fit up to five in two bedrooms, and even has an indoor fire (rare for glamping), and a grand dining area.
The four-person wood-fired tub is a place you won’t want to leave, and is best-enjoyed under the stars with a glass of wine while listening to the distant deer calls.
The quaint French village of Akaroa is just over 30 minutes away, where you can swim with the tiny Hector’s dolphin, one of rarest in the world.
Getting there: 1 hour from Christchurch, near Little River in Banks Peninsula.
Power: Solar with USB charging for phones. Price: From $290 a night.
The author was hosted by Canopy Camping.
The Kauri Tree Hut is built on stilts, deep in the native bush.
Cottle Hill Creek is home to resident ducks, but it’s also common to see wild turkeys, peacocks, quail and pheasants.
The Green Antler has a four-person bathtub overlooking a deer farm.
Tawanui Farm has two large Lotus Belle tents.
The Castaways Tree Tent even has a bath suspended in the trees.
If you’ve wondered what it’s like to be a hobbit, Underhill will get you there.
Rockwood Station is considered high country, so any weather is on the cards.
The Castaway Costal Tents all have food ready in your fridge to eat.
The Manutu¯ ke¯ Eco Retreat has been open for only a few weeks.
Serenity Retreat is tucked away on a large Coromandel farm.